The line "I'm not Cordelia. I will not be there." is in reference to Shakespeare's play "King Lear" where the oldest daughter of the King is continuously mistreated by him, however still continues to be...
Angst on the planks, spittin from a bridge
Just to see how far down it really is
Robbing a bank, jumping on a train
Old antiques a man alone can entertain

It takes all of your power
To prove that you don't care
I'm not Cordelia. I will not be there
I will not be there, I will not be there

Yeah

Tin can man, dragging from a car
Just to see how alive you really are
Marrying words, falling in your wake
Just to tell what you can't eliminate

It takes all of your power
To prove that you don't care
I'm not Cordelia. I will not be there

Treading the boards, screaming out Macbeth
Just to see how much bad luck you really get
Jump in the ring with your hidden cape
The bull can't decide what it is that he really hates

It takes all of your power
To prove that you don't care
I'm not Cordelia. I will not be there
Not be there, not be there

Angst on the planks, spittin from a bridge
Just to see how far down it really is
Robbing a bank, jumping on a train
Old antiques a man alone can entertain

It takes all of your power
To prove that you don't care
I'm not Cordelia. I will not be there
Not be there, not be there

Thief lingers on, on his hands and knees
Must be one more thing he'll really need
Die in your dreams, falling on your knife
A thief blinded on the job has to steal for life

It takes all of your power
To prove that you don't care
I'm not Cordelia. I will not be there
Not be there, I will not be there
I will not be there, not be there


Lyrics submitted by black_cow_of_death, edited by blankstrip

"Cordelia" as written by Gordon Sinclair Gordon Downie

Lyrics © Peermusic Publishing

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Cordelia song meanings
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11 Comments

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  • +2
    General CommentCordelia was the daughter of King Lear that stuck by his side when his other daughters tried to overthrow him. Gord is telling whoever that he's not as loyal as Cordelia, he won't be there.
    mcjackmon April 04, 2005   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationThematically, this song seems to deal with taking unnecessary risks, just for the thrill or the gratification that comes from telling yourself you're pulling off something dangerous. Seeing how high up you are on the bridge, jumping from the train, shouting 'Macbeth' in a theatre (which superstition says will ruin the performance), the thief who has to stay in the house a minute too long just to get one more thing, etc.

    Gordie adds some clever twists in too. The bull trying to figure out if he hates the cape or the guy who's audacious enough to taunt him with it. And the chorus suggests all this behaviour is tied to a need to not owe anything to anyone else.

    Really great lyric, like most from The Hip.
    blankstripon June 06, 2015   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis is one of my favourite Hip songs that is NOT a single. I hate always hearing the first two songs from Road Apples (Little Bones, Twist My Arm) at bars and on the radio, but never hearing this one. The fact that Macbeth is refered to in the lyrics is a great indicator that Gord is in fact referring to Cordelia, the daughter of Shakespear's King Lear.
    FinnHawkon July 07, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"Treading the boards" means to act on stage. Macbeth is often referred to as the Scottish play since it is considered bad luck to speak the name while in a theatre. Most of you probably already know this.
    HipAnonon January 09, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentNegative Thrills.

    Scaring yourself for the rush.

    He is NOT Cordelia. He's not virtuous or kind.

    How bad can things get? How risky can you make it?

    What a thrill.
    thecrossboneon March 30, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis tune was written in the late 80's/early 90's and to me, it speaks of the challenges English Canada has with the separatist movement in Quebec.

    Cordelia, the dutiful and indulgent daughter, endured all manner of abuse. By refusing to be like Cordelia, Gord is advocating English Canada should refuse to be bullied by Quebec's dictates and demands. He articulates that Quebec must muster all of its energy to prove it is aggrieved and not fulfilled within confederation.

    Treading the boards? The posturing of an actor as he makes his pronouncements, just like a politician, ranting his unhappiness and misery at the fate associated with coexistence.

    Who jumps "in the ring with your hidden cape"? One who enters the political fray expressing national pride. Of course, the bull is Quebec, unable to decide if the hatred is for the cape (ie flag) or the bullfighter (the rest of Canada).

    There are references to things being done just because they can - spitting from a bridge, jumping on a train etc., as well as the Tin Man reference - he of no heart. Quebec can do all these things in the current political environment, so it chooses to do so, whether it is logical and desirable or not.

    Old antiques - time honoured grievances ... and of course, robbing a bank - transfer payments to an always financially dependent Quebec. Of course, this is also evident in the final verse, where the thief stays hoping to extract just one more thing before falling on his own knife, in the form of suicide by separation. Of course, once independent, Quebec hopes to maintain an economic affliliation with Canada - now blinded on the job, Quebec will have to steal for life.

    Gotta love the Hip - provocative stuff.
    svrtas1036on August 09, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI heard Gord say one time that This song is about a beautiful women
    Fully__Completelyon March 07, 2003   Link
  • 0
    General CommentCould this be about a man about a feisty beautiful woman? "Tin can man..." and the rest of the stanza to me symbolizes a car driving away from a wedding. I don't fully know because Gord Downie can write some freaky poetry. I do know that Cordelia was the virtuous child of King Lear. Could it be about a sinful man marrying a pure virgin? I don't know but I do love this song. Road Apples is the best album by The Hip.
    OpinionHeadon April 19, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think one theme of this song could be stagefright. 'Angst on the planks, spitting from a bridge', could be the same thing as peeping out from behind a curtain to see how many people are in the audience. Couple that with the fact that King Lear is a commonly produced Shakespeare play. I dunno, its a possibility
    NickChopperon December 13, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"Tin-can man" may be an allusion to the Wizard of Oz character "the Tin Man" who's limbs where chopped off one by one with his own axe, enchanted by the Wicked Witch of the west. Each time, the limb was replaced with one made of tin until nothing was left of him but tin. Lacking a heart, he is unable to feel anything for someone he used to love, and so begins his journey to the Emerald City in search of a heart. A "tin man" still means someone without a heart. Why NickChopper didn't mention this is beyond me since he obviously caught the reference as well. You can also tie a string to a tin-can man and drag it from a car, and it will bounce along the pavement as if it had a life of its own.
    HipAnonon January 09, 2007   Link

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